by Carl Kruse
Apologies for the click-baity title. Fortunately no click bait here only notes from a Celeste Headlee TED talk in Savannah, Georgia on how to have better conversations.
I found several nuggets in her presentation and perhaps you might too, which is why I am sharing a summary of her presentation.
Now I’m not sure if she titled her lecture “Tips For Better Conversations” but that stayed with me and here it is. These notes are slightly edited from the rapid-fire scribbling I originally did – which was of course more for me than anyone else — but as everything shared on this blog hopefully there is some goodness for you, otherwise forgive me.
Headlee suggests that mastering even one of the below tips dramatically improves your life and relationships. Could be.
With this rambling preamble let’s dive in.
10 Tips For Better Conversations
1. Do not multitask when talking with another human being.
This is not about fiddling with your iPhone but about your mental state. Be present. Never half in/half out. Always be all in with someone else.
(Carl: I like this alot and it brings to mind an old mentor who made it a point of taking off his watch when having a one-on-one meeting with someone. I guess the modern equivalent of turning off your smartphone?)
2. Never pontificate.
If you want to sermonize write a blog. Otherwise enter every conversation feeling you can learn something. Set yourself aside when listening, which is putting aside your personal opinion (just for a moment). As Bill Nye said, “Everyone you meet knows something you don’t.” Or said another way, everybody is an expert at something.
(Carl: I like the idea of not pontificating, though I am not sure everyone is an expert at something, even if I like that idea as well and it could be true.)
3. Use open-ended questions.
Don’t use yes and no questions when talking with someone. Take a cue from journalism – Who? What? When? Where? Why? If you ask, “Were you scared?” The answer might be, “Yeah, I was terrified.” Instead ask, “What was that like?” “How did that feel?” Engage.
4. Go with the flow and don’t interrupt.
Stories will come to you as you hear the other person speak. Let those stories come and go. Avoid interjecting that time you met Hugh Jackman in a cafe when someone else tells you about a good café story. If the chat rambles towards a good place, go with it, and hold back your extraordinary experience that trumps the flow or has nothing to do with where the chat is going.
5. If you don’t know, say you don’t know.
Err on the side of caution. Talk should not be cheap. Be honest.
6. Don’t equate their experience with yours.
If you hear they lost a family member, don’t barge in that you lost one as well. Ditto with problems at work. It is never the same. It is not about you. You don’t need to prove how amazing you are or how much you have suffered. Conversations should never be about promotional opportunities.
(Carl: It’s not about you.)
7. Try not to repeat yourself.
It is condescending and boring. This happens often in work-related discussions.
8. Stay out of the weeds.
People don’t care about the years and years and details and details you are trying to unearth. They care about you. You won’t want to, especially in the heat of the moment, but forget the details.
The number one most important skill you can have in any conversation. Buddah said (more or less), “If your mouth is open you are not learning” and Calvin Coolidge advised, “No man ever listened his way out of a job.” Listen.
10. Be brief.
A good conversation is like a miniskirt, short enough to retain interest, but long enough to cover the subject.
Be interested. Be present. Never multitask.
Keep your mouth shut as much as possible.
Keep your mind open. Always be prepared to be amazed.
And you just might never be disappointed with them nor they with you.
Blog Homepage – Carl Kruse
Contact: carl AT carlkruse DOT com
For a different type of communication check out the post on communing with Titanic’s last message…in Morse Code…here.
And in the same vein of summarizing presentations here are the notes on Internet culture.